For four years, women's basketball seniors Taylor Brown, Vanessa Smith, and Jackie Reyneke have made Jadwin Gymnasium their home. On Saturday, they walked off the court for their final time at Jadwin, capping a wild and record-setting four years for the Class of 2017.
While the Tigers did not come away with a win onSaturday night, the day was still full of emotion and celebration as the Tigers honored their three seniors for their amazing work over the past seasons. Including the weekend's victory against Columbia and loss to Cornell, the seniors have amassed a combined 43-9 record in Jadwin over their four years on the team — a record better than the one posted by last year’s seniors.
“It meant a lot to all of the players on the court to have this night,” commented Smith. “It was emotional — especially for the seniors to have their families with them — and a special night for sure”.
The Tigers have relied on the play of their seniors to carry the young team through the season and to work out the growing pains in the process. During a tough stretch early in the season, Princeton looked to the seniors to turn things around and pump confidence and swagger back into this team. The seniors helped dispel early season struggles and led a team that started the season 0-4 to an 18-10 record and a shot at the Ivy League regular season title. During that stretch, the Tigers had an eight-game win streak in conference play and propelled themselves from seventh in league standings to second.
Captain Smith has been in the thick of lineup since she came to Princeton. She has appeared in all games for the Tigers since her sophomore year, and she has started in every game except one her junior year. This year, she and Brown took over as the captains of the team, looking to stabilize the transition from a team of veteran experience to a team of new talent. Smith has continued to shine as a starting guard this year, tallying 177 total points, the third highest on the team; 110 rebounds; and 29 assists. She has emphasized the notion of playing physically and dominating the glass all season, something the Tigers have successfully achieved in many of their games.
Right by Smith’s side is her fellow captain, Brown. Anchoring the other guard spot on the team, Brown has let Smith dominate the glass while controlling the pace of play for the team’s offense. This year, Brown has scored 166 points and dished out 53 assists, while making 37 steals on the defensive side. Indeed, Smith and Brown together combine for one of the most balanced and potent backcourts in the Ivy League.
Senior forward Reyneke has battled adversity over her four years on the team. Injured in her first three seasons, Reyneke was never able to get into a groove. However, after appearing in only 13 games in her previous two seasons, Reyneke has appeared in 24 games this season and has been a force down low. In fact, she has grabbed 71 rebounds over the year and has blocked 15 shots, second on the team behind freshman Bella Alarie.
But beyond the stats and playmaking abilities of these seniors is something more. They have carried with them all of the characteristics of a Princeton team: commitment to excellence, heart, a fiery spirit, and patience. Behind all of the accolades and records broken over these four years, the seniors leave something even greater. They have ingrained a sense of pride, leadership, and maturity into this young team. They have taught them the importance of having fun and loving your team above all else, and they have enriched the players and communities they have touched, from their off-court around campus to the Australia trip in the offseason.
The Tigers have two more weeks in the regular season, where they will look to win the regular season title for the second time in three years. After that, it is on to the inaugural Ivy League tournament, as the Tigers clinched a bid in the field of four with Friday’s win over Columbia. There are still games to be played and firsts to be had in this wild season. But as the seniors walk out of Jadwin for the final time, it is only fitting to recognize their excellence, both on and off the court, and give thanks to what they have brought to Princeton.